Tag Archives: Green Belt

Would you choose to get Involved with Castle Point’s Local Plan if you didn’t have to Sajid Javid?

Thorney Bay, Jotmans Farm, Green Belt, Flood Risk, Travellers, Duty to Cooperate, Period of Purdah, Reasons why the Government are Unlikely to Intervene in Castle Point Local Plan Process.

What are the likelihoods of Intervention, from an uneducated viewpoint?

The Intervention by a Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, in the Local Plan process at Castle Point would appear a highly unusual step to be taken.

Previous local intervention by SoS Sajid Javid included the Jotmans Farm Appeal and his Dismissal decision of his Planning Inspector, released on the 21st April 2017.

General Election 8th June 2017

Period of Purdah starts 22nd April 2017 (coincidence?)

Purdah: Purdah is the official pre-election period between the election announcement and final results which places restrictions of civil servants.                                                         Local and central governments will continue with business as usual, but must be careful not to take any action or make any announcements that could show affiliation to a political party. The litmus test is: “Could a reasonable person conclude that you were spending public money to influence the outcome of the election?”

The Jotmans decision’s Pro and Cons included;

Report on the Examination of the Castle Point New Local Plan 2016, which concluded that the duty to co-operate had not been complied with. The Council determined to withdraw the dNLP 2016.

The CPBC’s failure to save LP Policy GB1, the Green Belt designation, shown on the Proposals Map, persists

Given the withdrawal of the dNLP, the Secretary of State takes the view that no weight can be afforded to the withdrawn policies.

He (SoS) further agrees that substantial weight should be given to any harm to the Green Belt.

He agrees that the degree of landscape harm caused by the proposal would be limited

He shares the Inspector’s view that the proposal could lead to an improvement in the existing situation, and that issues around flooding do not weigh against the proposal.

He considers that concerns about the potential impact of construction traffic can be addressed by means of conditions, or by the Highway Authority

He further agrees with the Inspector that the proposal would bring forward market and affordable housing in an area where there has been a longstanding failure to provide sufficient new housing, and that in view of the prevailing housing supply situation in Castle Point, that carries very substantial weight in favour of the scheme

He further agrees that the creation or securing of jobs, the generation of economic activity in the construction process and the stimulation of the local economy carry a considerable degree of weight in favour

He has also taken into account the Written Ministerial Statement confirming the Government’s policy that ‘subject to the best interests of the child*, personal circumstances and unmet need are unlikely to clearly outweigh harm to the Green Belt and any other harm so as to establish very special circumstances’. He considers that this policy carries more force than the Inspector attributes to it.

The proposal is therefore in conflict with national policy on the Green Belt,.

*Green Belt and Flood Risk are both mentioned equally in regards to the Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development at Footnote 9 of the NPPF, exceptions include;

policies in this Framework indicate development should be restricted.9

For example… land designated as Green Belt, Local Green Space… and locations at risk of flooding…

*The weight given to “the best interests of the child” in regard to outweighing Harm to the Green Belt would quite reasonably be interpreted to include Flood Risk.
This would bear relationship to Travellers sites where guidance is given in the proposed siting; “do not locate sites in areas at high risk of flooding, including functional floodplains, given the particular vulnerability of caravans”
The type of Travellers Homes are likely to include caravans and mobile homes style accommodation.
Interesting then that Castle Point Council take no involvement, nor intervention in the Thorney Bay, shortly to become Sandy Bay development, given that the numbers of dwellings would make it THE largest Housing Supply site in the Castle Point Local Plan.

That CPBC are busying themselves with Cooperation Duties with our Neighbouring Councils, it may appear that Intervention measures by the Secretary of State of CPBC Local Plan processes may be considered surprising, should they eventually materialise.

But then you Never Know, do you?

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Canvey & Castle Point Council, No Plan-Better than a Bad Plan and Forever Watching this Space!

So, Castle Point Council are being threatened by the Government in the form of Secretary of State for Communities and local Government, Sajid Javid.

As you will by now know cpbc are named among the 15 local authorities, along with our cooperative neighbours, Basildon, accused of failing “the duty to cooperate or failed to meet the deadlines set out in their Local Development Schemes.”

The SoS went on to give the 15 local authorities an “opportunity to put forward any exceptional circumstances, by 31 January 2018, which, in their view, justify their failure to produce a Local Plan.”

The next step, should the Government department be unsatisfied with the reasoned response, would be Government intervention.

Greenbelt-challenge_S_01

Will this concern those in control of cpbc though? And besides what implications would enforcing an autocratic local planning system have on the democratically elected borough council?

simonicity blogged;

The February 2016 technical consultation proposed that authorities identified for potential intervention would be given an opportunity to set out exceptional circumstances why that should not happen:

“What constitutes an ‘exceptional circumstance’ cannot, by its very nature, be defined fully in advance, but we think it would be helpful to set out the general tests that will be applied in considering such cases. We propose these should be: 

• whether the issue significantly affects the reasonableness of the conclusions that can be drawn from the data and criteria used to inform decisions on intervention; 

• whether the issue had a significant impact on the authority’s ability to produce a local plan, for reasons that were entirely beyond its control.”

We can assume that those 15 authorities will now be looking very carefully at this passage. 

A political decision to intervene is one thing but what would then be the legal process to be followed?

Let me take you back to the early days of the cpbc Core Strategy (CS), ( I know I have been told that that process is long since dead and buried, but this is the Canvey Green Belt Campaign blog and we shall reflect on whatever we wish)!

That particular document (the CS) also stalled, until the cpbc officer in charge, along with his ceo, met privately with Lead Group members, and others with an interest, and came up with the bright idea of offering to Sacrifice Canvey Island Green Belt to development, whilst mainland Green Belt was removed from the CS.  That was, if the Lead Group would prefer and in return would vote in favour of moving the CS forward for publication!

So progress was made, more easier, when the Daws Heath and Hadleigh Hands Off Our Greenbelt Campaign representatives, spoke up to add their full-backing behind the Core Strategy document at the Council meeting to decide Canvey’s fate and approve the document for the next stage!

No wonder the Talk of Independence for Canvey Island is stamped upon, especially whilst the Island is so valuable to the mainland, if it was a burden it would be a different matter!

Fortunately for some, unfortunately for others, that document came crashing down around cpbc’s ankles. A disregard of Flood Risk (sound familiar?) and a poor choice of (Canvey) Green Belt, and the influence of “Local Factors” was the Inspector’s finding, and away cpbc went to start again.

So Ms Challis OBE and her henchmen organised a Councillor Conference during 2011 that split members into groups so that they could select mainland green belt sites to add to Canvey Island Green Belt sites, and following that a further Local Plan document emerged.

local plan.jpg-pwrt3

Her battle cry then was “watch this space!” Well I can confess, we have been watching this space, and a b****y hard job it has been, staying awake!

The draft New Local Plan went down like a stone on the mainland, despite it “only” being a consultation document, with councillors losing seats, voted out by disgruntled and concerned mainland residents.

We have to remember the influence the 2016 EU Referendum had on our local politics.

So when cpbc issue a response to Sajid Javid’s letter, by the end of January, we expect him to be informed of the progress being made by cpbc and our neighbour’s as to the good progress being made in the Duty to Cooperate and that the cpbc Local Plan vers.IV is in place, un-examined.

And we would also expect a extra little note pushed under Sajid Javid’s office door, explaining to him not to take the electoral balance in Castle Point for granted!

Autocracy has a place but, not it appears anywhere near Runnymede Towers Castle Point.

No Plan better than a Bad Plan, now where have we heard that before?

 

 

Canvey Island going it Alone? Better than always being on the Outside Looking In!

The Report following the recent investigation into a conduct complaint of a Castle Point councillor should be of some concern to Canvey Islanders.

It does not take much reading between the lines to question why Canvey Island, with its own Town Council, would want to be associated and controlled by Castle Point Borough Council!

We are happy to point out that the councillor under investigation was cleared of any accusation of wrong doing, more to the point of this Blog post are some of the issues raised in the investigation report of the activities and presumptions of councillors and officers inactions.

We are most concerned at the perception of how some cpbc Cabinet members  and officers appear to be content to operate in a manner that brings the local authority close to a position of ill-repute.

Officers seemingly unable to impose any control over councillors and the cabinet system oblivious to any requirement of operating within cpbc’s own Constitution!

Quite clearly the Adopted Local Plan, albeit out of date, regularly gets overruled and undermined where the proposed policies of whichever draft new local plan is current, if Green Belt development is before the cpbc development committee.

With the Chairman and 2 cabinet members all being “strong characters” it is not unreasonable to assume that some level of predetermination may be perceived by critics of the cpbc development committee, as the latest local plan policies are used as the basis for decision making. The 5 Purposes of Green Belt appear to take second stage.

Why would Canvey Islanders support such presumption?*

Extracts from the councillor Investigation Report compiled by ch&i associates:

“Certain local authorities only allow members to call-in applications from within their own ward; the Council may wish to consider whether it wishes to adopt a similar policy.

A Planning Audit report produced for the Council in December 2016 highlighted a number of issues about the call-in process and decisions made in Committee that I believe have been further highlighted by this investigation:

 

  • The Constitution does not provide detailed information about the process to be followed when a Member requests to have an application referred to Committee. • The Council does not formally document call-ins. • Material planning grounds were not stated for all applications called-in to the Development Control Committee. • Where Members of the Development Control Committee are minded to make a decision contrary to the officer recommendation, no further input from the officer is sought regarding the implications of that decision. • Members have rejected officers’ advice without giving clear and concise reasons for their decision based on material planning considerations. • Reasons for officer recommendations being overturned are not routinely analysed and lessons learnt.”

Referring to Committee members “calling-in” planning applications so that they may be considered by the committee, rather than being delegated to officers and thereby requiring said councillor to provide the required justifiable planning reasons  for doing so cpbc officers “Officers told me that councillors are not very good at this generally”!

“If they (planning  committee members) do wish to engage with applicants directly in connection with their planning application then they should ensure that they do not take part in the decision-making process.

The Secretary of State considers….. In addition, local authorities should consider including a member of the executive, if possible with responsibility for the Development Plan, on one or more committees which take development control decisions although she or he should not normally be the chair”. Currently the Council’s (CPBC) Constitution does not limit the number of Cabinet members on its Development Control Committee, although it does state that they must not be appointed as the Chair or Vice Chair. Councillor Smith’s appointment as Vice-Chair of the Committee appears to be in direct contravention of this.

Planning decisions are a non-executive function and therefore must be dealt with by the Committee and not by Cabinet. While there is nothing in the legislation to prevent members of Cabinet being members of the Committee, there is a need for councillors to take particular care in determining planning applications to avoid being perceived as being pre-determined. Where the Council’s Cabinet has encouraged and/or promoted a particular development or plan and a Member is both a Member of the Committee and also a Cabinet Member, it is arguable that the issue of predetermination may arise as a result of the Member’s perceived proximity to the proposal through discussions in Cabinet. There is a risk that even an apparently genuine consideration of the planning application by such a Member may be perceived as a sham.”

Editors emphasis.

* Presumption in this context taken as meaning; behaviour perceived as arrogant, disrespectful, and transgressing the limits of what is permitted or appropriate:

The Benefits of Canvey Island to Castle Point Council in the preservation of its Green Fields!

Sometimes it takes an illustration to put into perspective the control exerted by Castle Point Council over their, seemingly insignificant and powerless neighbours, Canvey Island.

The BBC, Home Editor, Mark Easton posted the information below today, under the Heading of “How much of your area is built on?”

Taking into account the high water-table Marshland, the reliance on Sea Defences, the fact that the whole of Canvey is considered a Critical Drainage Area due to the “complicated drainage system”, the distribution of development is puzzling to say the least!

The density of existing Housing, the currently under-development Housing sites and the Industrial, including Hazardous Industrial, areas indicated within Castle Point and in particular Canvey Island are self evident!

CP Built On

How does Castle Point compare?

Built on:  Castle Point 38%    UK: 6%

Green Urban:  CP 18%  UK 3%

Farm Land:  CP 31%  UK 57%

Natural:  CP13%  UK 35%

More than half of the UK land area is farmland (fields, orchards etc), just over a third might be termed natural or semi-natural (moors, heathland, natural grassland etc), a little under 6% is built on (roads, buildings, airports, quarries etc) and 2.5% is green urban (parks, gardens, golf courses, sports pitches etc).

The data has been produced with the help of Dr Alasdair Rae from the Urban Studies and Planning Department at the University of Sheffield.

Methodology:

The largest component of the “built on” category is “discontinuous urban fabric”, within which 20-50% of the surface area may be green space. To account for this we have reassigned the minimum 20% of “discontinuous urban fabric” to “green urban”, which in many cases may be an underestimate. The map uses building land cover data from Ordnance Survey.

The percentages above are estimates. Maps produced by Alasdair Rae from the University of Sheffield using data from Corine and Ordnance Survey.

Jotmans Farm Green Belt Development Appeal Update

Following the Secretary of State’s decision following the Appeal inquiry into the proposed Jotmans Farm Green Belt Housing Development, the developer registered a High Court challenge over the decision of the SoS and Castle Point council.

CPBC Councillor A. Sheldon has issued this notice:

Dear Residents,

I have just received the news that the Developers have not been granted permission to appeal the Jotmans decision by the Secretary of State!!!

This means that no appeal hearing will take place. They made an application for an appeal and it got refused!!! THE DECISION STANDS. JOTMANS WILL NOT BE BUILT ON.

I have received word that they are looking to get this decision reviewed (the decision not to review the decision…..), but I am confident this will get thrown out. With every unsuccessful legal bid they make, the case they have grows weaker and weaker. As your local councillor I will keep on monitoring this and keep you updated.

Our message to the developers: “Democracy has won. Take your money and build homes on sites the community want, not ones that are easy”.

Well done again to all those who kept the faith and supported our cause. I also want to thank the Jotmans Farm Action Group who fought this application hard from day 1. We can all rest that little bit easier now.

We are not completely out of the woods just yet, but we one last step away and I will be dammed if I am going to let anything make us stumble now.

I will be putting out a letter to let the rest of the estate know at the weekend and if anyone could volunteer to deliver their road I would be grateful.

Kind regards,

Councillor Andrew Sheldon

Jotmans Magaret March Benfleethistory.org.uk

Persimmon’s Increase Profits 30% – Land Bank nears 100,000 Sites!

Persimmon has eyes on Castle Point. Their Jotmans Farm proposal, turned down by the Secretary of State, is due to be challenged on Appeal in the High Court.

Previously they have Withdrawn their proposal for 265+ dwellings at East of Canvey Road, Canvey Island.

Persimmon’s half year returns indicate a startling uplift in Profits And Land Bank sites!

One of the UK’s largest house builder has increased its profits by 30% as its Land Bank nears 100,000 Sites!

Telegraph Business Reported;

FTSE 100 housebuilder Persimmon has reported a 30pc jump in profits in the first half of the year as it avoided the effects of a slowdown in the housing market.
Persimmon’s pre-tax profits rose 30pc to £457.5m in the six months ended June 30, while revenues were up 12pc to £1.66bn.
It built 556 new homes in the period, an increase in completions of 8pc to a total 7,794, as it made the business more efficient. Its average selling price rose 4pc to £213,262.
“The market remains confident,” said chief executive Jeff Fairburn. “Customer interest in our developments remains strong with encouraging levels of interest through both our websites and our sales outlets as we trade through the quieter summer weeks.

“Whilst we remain vigilant to changes in market conditions we also recognise we are in a strong position to take advantage of opportunities that arise.”

However the company said it would “remain cautious” when it comes to investing in new land, primarily due to Brexit-induced uncertainty facing the economy.

It was boosted by the Government-backed scheme Help to Buy, which Anthony Codling, an analyst at Jefferies, said was “acting as a bullet-proof vest for the new-build sector allowing it to ride above the challenges faced by the second hand market”.

 He added: “Persimmon [is] continuing to balance the market’s appetite for more new homes with investors’ desires for higher cash returns”.

The housebuilding giant sells around half of its homes using the scheme, which allows buyers to purchase a new-build property with a 5pc deposit. Earlier this month, Persimmon’s share price fell 6.6pc in one day after a news report suggested that Help to Buy could be ended before its planned date of 2021. After the Government confirmed it would not, the share price rebounded.

Mr Fairburn said: “We should take confidence from the fact the scheme works very well. It does what it was intended to do. The Government should be pleased it stimulated housebuilding, and more people can buy new houses.”

Laith Khalaf, a senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The latest results from Persimmon have a bit of swagger about them, and well they might, with profits rising by almost a third despite a slowdown in economic growth.

“The UK housebuilding sector is still sitting pretty, with interest rates staying low, the Help to Buy scheme supporting demand, and a lack of supply helping to boost prices.”

CPBC councillors in no Hurry, despite Canvey Brown field Land being up for Grabs!

The Castle Point Local Plan wheels of Motion turn Notoriously Slowly.
It was apparent from the debate during full council that nothing had progressed following cabinets “noting” of the requirement to compile a List of Brown field land Register, Part 2 of which would be granted Planning in Principle to support Housing supply within the Local Plan.

Cabinet Councillors spoke of forming a committee to consider appropriate land to be included in the Brown field Register and a similar debate during full council indicated no appointments made, nor meetings planned, in the meantime following the cabinet’s decision! With August arriving few meetings are usually scheduled due to holidays.
This Brownfield register may be seen as the mainland residents Green Belt life saver, as many brown field sites have been rumoured to have already been identified on Canvey Island.

Paddocks

As with all cpbc committees the balance of power rests with the mainland councillors so we can expect the development land identified to receive a Planning Inspector’s response to raise concerns on “the consequences of this on the distribution of growth across the Borough!”

However there is an opportunity for CITC to partake

“Notification for parish councils and neighbourhood forums of proposal to enter land in Part 2 of the Brownfield register; 

Where the council of any parish, or a neighbourhood forum, (“the relevant body”) in the area of the local planning authority have—

(a) requested the authority to notify it of a proposed entry of land in Part 2, and

(b) the land to which the proposed entry relates is within the area of the relevant body, the local planning authority must notify the relevant body of the proposed entry by serving requisite notice on it”

The driving force on compiling this Register, expected complete by the End of 2017, appears left to councillors with leading officers now having taken consultation only positions.

It appears that the first point of debate should be, but will most likely be disregarded, what constitutes Brown field land.

If you were to simply swallow what some local protagonists claim, Green Belt is held akin to:

And did those feet in ancient time Walk upon England’s mountain green? And was the holy Lamb of God On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

Rather than:  Green Belt serves five purposes:

  • to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas
  • to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another
  • to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment
  • to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns
  • to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land

This is recognised by Chelmsford City Council;

In their Local Plan Preferred Options Document they state:

Green Belt  A national planning policy designation given to land. Green Belts were designated to stop the uncontrolled growth of large cities and towns.    The Green Belt can include both greenfield and brownfield sites in areas with both good and poor landscape value.”

Our local Castle Point councillors will do well, if they were indeed intending to work towards bringing forward a Local Plan rather than extending the process indefinitely, to first understand and absorb this definition.

Of course that may not be their most important driving force!

Government regulation and advice on the compiling of Registers of Brownfield Land includes:

The regulations require local authorities to prepare and maintain registers of brownfield land that is suitable for residential development. The Order provides that sites entered on Part 2 of the new brownfield registers will be granted permission in principle.

The proposals came in to force in mid April 2017. Local authorities will be expected to have compiled their registers by 31 December 2017.

The (Government) department’s rigorous new burdens assessments ensure local planning authorities receive the relevant resources to meet their statutory obligations. We have written to authorities informing them of the grant funding that they will receive to cover their new responsibilities.

We (the Government) intend to publish statutory guidance to explain our policy for brownfield registers in more detail by Summer 2017. It will also set out our expectations for the operation of the policy and the requirements of the secondary legislation.

Brownfield registers will provide up-to-date, publicly available information on brownfield land that is suitable for housing. This will improve the quality and consistency of data held by local planning authorities which will provide certainty for developers and communities, encouraging investment in local areas. Brownfield registers should include all brownfield sites that are suitable for housing development irrespective of their planning status.

Local planning authorities who are required to develop a Local Plan under Part 2 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 will be required to have a register covering the area of the local plan.

The regulations set a process for identifying suitable sites, including the requirements for keeping a register and the criteria for assessing sites. (The regulations also set out the requirements for publicity and consultation where an authority proposes to enter sites on Part 2 of the register.) There is a duty on local planning authorities to have regard to the development plan, national policy and advice and guidance when exercising their functions under the brownfield register regulations.

the timescale is realistic. Local authorities already collect and review information on housing land as part of the well established Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment process and the requirements for preparing registers are aligned to this process as far as possible. Seventy-three local planning authorities have piloted the preparation of brownfield registers and their experience has helped to shape the policy and requirements.

Putting a site on Part 1 of a register does not mean it will automatically be granted permission in principle. Local planning authorities will be able to enter sites on Part 2 of the register which will trigger a grant of permission in principle for those sites suitable for housing-led development only after they have followed the consultation and publicity requirements, and other procedures set out in the regulations and they remain of the opinion that permission in principle should be granted. Those sites which have permission in principle for housing-led development will be clearly identified by being in Part 2 of the register.

Where a site on a register is considered to be deliverable within 5 years it can be counted towards the 5-year housing supply. Local planning authorities will be required to indicate whether sites are ‘deliverable’ when entering data on their registers.

Local planning authorities must take into account the National Planning Policy Framework when identifying sites to include in their brownfield registers. The Framework has strong policies to protect the natural and built environment and conserve and enhance the historic environment. It also requires authorities to ensure that a residential use is appropriate for the location and that a site can be made suitable for its new use.

Brownfield registers complement the existing Local Plan processes for identifying sites that are suitable for housing. When preparing their plans, local planning authorities are required, through the preparation of Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments to identify housing sites on brownfield land and other land that is suitable for housing. The regulations ensure that the process of identifying suitable sites for the brownfield register is aligned to the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment process, and so proactively supports the plan-making process.

Permission in principle will settle the fundamental principles of development (use, location, amount of development) for the brownfield site giving developers/applicants more certainty.